World’s Most Ancient Wild Dog Breed, Believed Extinct, Resurfaces
Science & Tech| | By Jason Owen
Researchers believed that for more than half a century, the New Guinea highland wild dog (HWD) had gone extinct from its native habitat, but a recent expedition has found the “ancient” dogs are not only still alive, but seem to have a thriving population in a remote region of Earth.
Researchers with the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation (NGHWDF) explored deep into country’s remote mountain range (pictured below), a mountainous “spine” that separates east and west, where they stumbled upon the wild dogs. The researchers were able to come away with hundreds of photos of “at least 15 wild individuals, including males, females, and pups, thriving in isolation and far from human contact,” wrote Science Alert.
“The 2016 Expedition was able to locate, observe, gather documentation and biological samples, and confirm through DNA testing that at least some specimens still exist and thrive in the highlands of New Guinea,” said the research group. “The discovery and confirmation of the highland wild dog for the first time in over half a century is not only exciting, but an incredible opportunity for science.”
While the confirmation of the dog’s existence is exciting, the animal also represents the “missing link” between ancient dog species and our current domestic breeds.
The DNA analysis of the dogs revealed that these are the “rarest and most ancient canid currently living. It is our best example of a proto-canid and is truly a living fossil,” wrote NGHWDF. “It is the apex predator of New Guinea and the most important canid in existence. The HWD is the missing link species between the first early canids and the modern domestic dog.”
Now that researchers have made this first contact with HWDs in the wild, future expeditions are being planned to help further study the dogs and assist with conservation efforts. To learn more about the discovery, head to NGHWDF’s website.
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See more images of the highland wild dog below.